Weight of the World – When Finances and Mental Health Collide

Recently, I faced a very difficult situation since moving out on my own. After struggling to gain my footing in my new town and home, I managed to get a job waiting tables at a restaurant. It was located closer to school than my home but still within doable distance by buses and trains if needed. However, for reasons I cannot ascertain, I was slowly given less and less hours until I received none for almost five weeks straight. I was terrified – I lived in a two bedroom basement apartment with my common-law partner and my roommate. My partner is unemployed but has a large portion of savings to get him through all of his schooling, while my roommate works a part-time job with regular hours; both received CPP (Canada Pension Plan) from their parents as well, while at this point I was basically borrowing money from both of them and my parents (my mother was also struggling with employment at this point). I felt like a failure, constantly applying for jobs and hearing nothing. I’d leave after class and print off five resumes at a time, taking the bus to the Pickering Town Centre and handing them out in the shops and restaurants in the area, desperate for anything. My mental state deteriorated into a deep bout of depression; I was constantly anxious, my eating would bounce between eating too much and eating next to nothing, all I wanted to do was sleep and cry. I felt I did not deserve the help I was receiving from my loving and understanding family.

It wasn’t until I got the news that I was finally hired at my current job that things started looking up. I received a slight boost when my employer called me to apologized and offer me shifts after rearranging which managers would be making the schedule. I was thrilled, finally I would have a stable income again. But I was let down once more, on Mother’s Day I was let go from the job that had let me down for so long, for literally no good reason other than they did not want me. Thankfully, I still have the job I have now and I feel rewarded. I’m still struggling to regain my footing after nearly three months of unemployment, my credit card racked up some debt and I owe my parents and partner so much thanks for being understanding and supporting me financially and emotionally.

Unfortunately, not everyone has such a great support system in place for when they hit hard times. You can’t always predict when you’ll be laid off, fired, or even having to quit a job. You can’t always know how much savings you may need to keep you afloat and for how long. It’s a scary thought and even scarier revelation. I got lucky, but if someone else were in my situation, would they have been? My mother told me if I lived with anyone else, I wouldn’t have been permitted to stay there, and I worried. What if that were true? How lucky am I really? My roommate and partner understood that it was not my fault I did not have hours. I went into my work and begged to have hours, anything would do. But nothing gave. My mother gave me rent for two months and paid my grocery bills. My partner paid for everything, loaning me cash to get even a coffee after class. As a stubborn person, taking money from those I felt needed it more was a struggle for me. Even though in the back of my head I knew I would be okay, my mother’s independence she instill in me made me feel worse for “mooching”. I applied for welfare, only to be turned down upon the welfare officer taking one look at my partner’s bank statements. We had to apply as a common-law couple and I knew that this would disqualify me. I finally lost my cool in the office, bursting into tears in front of a complete stranger and my loving partner, who grew angrier at my situation and at my employers. Thankfully, this did not strain our relationship, and I’m ever grateful for his even temperament and loving nature.

Now that I finally am getting on my feet again, I want to provide some sort of advice to those who may go through or already are going through what I have. Please, do not feel like a failure. Even if you feel it is your fault, you still have ways of getting yourself out. Always remember to budget and save wherever you can. I did not do this and I regretted it immensely later. Track what you spend, see where you overspend and try to reduce it. Talk to your friends and family, be honest and upfront about the difficulties you feel. Do not do what I often do and burden yourself by holding things in. It may be an act of pride, stubbornness, or severe independence, but how does it benefit you? Talking with someone may potentially provide you with assistance in planning and budgeting as well. Most of all, I want you to remember that this is not forever. You may feel stuck, like you will never have a job again or you will be thrown out of your living situation, but you probably won’t. Don’t give up on applying for jobs – apply online, in-person, both where applicable. Something will come around, it may take time but you will find something. I can’t promise everything will be perfect, but in due time you will be okay. Please do not take drastic action even if you feel it is necessary. There are options available at school and in your community, research them and take advantage of them.

Good luck and much love.

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5 thoughts on “Weight of the World – When Finances and Mental Health Collide

  1. This is a really powerful entry that speaks to how much our environment – financial, social – can affect our mental health. Thank you for sharing this and I’m glad you’re feeling better now.

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  2. Given your description, I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say on the subjects of humanism, human rights, and human individuality. I’d be particularly interested if you can find a way to connect these subjects with mental health (since this is supposed to be a mental health blog), but it would not bother me if you discuss them outside of the context of mental health and just cover them in general.

    But aside from me giving suggestions for future posts, I’m glad things are working out for you. Good luck with your future endeavours.

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  3. This entry speaks volumes about what the average student is going through at any given moment. I am very sorry that you had to endure such a difficult situation. As a student, I understand how difficult it can be to secure a job to achieve financial stability. Often there are many people looking for any kind of employment opportunity when employment opportunities are just too few and far in between. After my extensive search, I found a job working for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology through the University Works Program. I currently work as a student assistant for the Student Awards Office and as such, I have become well versed on the services and opportunities available to students who are in need of financial assistance.

    The OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) is a viable option for student loans and non-repayable grant money. All students should apply for OSAP regardless of their situation or family income. Since everyone’s individual situation is distinctly unique, you can never say for sure that you won’t receive money based solely on your family’s income. You have nothing to lose, so take the time and apply! It might literally pay off!

    Aside from government assistance, UOIT also offers support to its students. As I mentioned, I was hired at my current on-campus job after I applied to the University Works (UW) Program. The University Works Program is a great opportunity for students who may be having a hard time finding a job. Applications for both summer and fall-winter employment are available. After your application is approved, you have the opportunity to apply for dozens of jobs across the campus that may even be in your future field of work. It is therefore also a great chance to gain employable experience. For those who have a financial plan but still fall short of the required sum that they need to pay for their schooling, UOIT has a General Bursary Application program that students can apply to. They also offer donor awards which can be applied for using a similar application. Donor awards have various degrees of criteria that range widely and do not always require you to have a high financial need or a high GPA. You can browse their list of Donor Awards by visiting http://safa.uoit.ca/scholarships-and-bursaries/uoit-donor-awards/index.php to see if you qualify for any. If you receive a 3.7 GPA or higher in the academic year that just finished, you may also be considered for an automatic in-course scholarship that will be applied to your student account for this upcoming September. Finally, if you are in a financial emergency situation that needs to be addressed immediately, the Student Awards and Financial Aid office offers emergency bursaries to help you get back on your feet. You can even make an appointment with a Financial Aid or Student Awards Officer to discuss creating a budget, if you are finding it difficult to make your own.

    To receive more information on any of the programs/opportunities I have commented on above, please contact the UOIT Student Awards and Financial Aid (SAFA) Office at 905.721.3143 or email uoitfinancialaid@uoit.ca. If you or anyone finds themselves in a difficult financial situation again, do not hesitate to contact them using the information above. They are here to help and educate you along the way!

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